Skoda Scala review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Skoda's Scala claims to bring something a little different to the compact hatch class. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the improved version.

Ten Second Review

With the Scala, Skoda aims to offer a credible solution for customers who can't quite make up their mind between a supermini and a family hatchback. Though the engineering's familiar from other VW Group models, the way the Czech brand has packaged it all up is quite appealing, with a decent combination of value, practicality and efficiency. If you prioritise sense and sensibility, want value in a car of this kind and are looking for something a little different from the obvious contenders in this class, the Scala could be worth a look. Especially in this revised form.

Background

Most mainstream brands offer a supermini and a family hatch. Skoda does too, the Fabia supermini and the Octavia family hatch. But in between, the Czech maker inserts this car, the Scala, which aims to offer the best of both. It was introduced back in 2019, sharing just about everything under the skin with the marque's Kamiq small SUV. In Autumn 2023, like that car, it received a mid-term update, creating the model we're going to look at here.

Unlike the Octavia, this car doesn't get the full-sized MQB platform you'd also find in a Golf or a SEAT Leon. Instead, this model is based on the more compact MQB A0 chassis used by superminis like the Volkswagen Polo and the SEAT Ibiza. The 'Scala' name comes from the Latin meaning 'stairs' or 'ladder', reflecting this model's claim to be 'a leap forward in design and technology' - at least for a Skoda. Plus as usual with its offerings, the brand is offering it at slightly lower prices than the opposition and includes a range of 'Simply Clever' design features intended to make everyday life with this car just that little bit easier. It all adds up to a contender that aims to bring something a little different to the bottom end of the family hatchback class.

Driving Experience

There are no significant mechanical changes as part of this update. Which means the Scala continues to be offered with three petrol units, the vast majority of customers choosing between 95 or 116PS versions of the VW Group's familiar three cylinder 1.0-litre turbo petrol unit, now upgraded to new generation 'evo2' spec. The lesser variant gets a 5-speed manual gearbox; the 116PS derivative offers the choice of either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. Which are the same transmission options offered for the minority-interest 1.5-litre 150PS petrol engine that continues on at the top of the range. This bigger four cylinder petrol unit's worth a look, equipped as it is with efficient Active Cylinder Technology that means it's almost as efficient as the 1.0-litre option.

So what's this Scala like on the road? Well other smaller cars that use its MQB-A0 chassis like the sixth generation Volkswagen Polo have impressed us with the way that relatively crude torsion bar damping can be tuned to provide a really supple quality of ride. This Skoda delivers that too. You can't have everything of course. Sharper potholes catch it out, but over commoner tarmac tears and highway undulations, it flows beautifully. With at least some of the kind of 'big car' feel that Skoda promises. Of course, it loses out to such as the Golf or the Focus in this class in terms of handling feedback. Throw this Skoda into a bend with any sort of vigour and though grip levels are admirable and the relative lack of body roll even quite surprising, there's little sense of enjoyment in the process through the light steering. Does that matter? Only you can decide. Optional is an Adaptive Cruise Control system that can automatically keep the car a safe distance behind the vehicle in front on the motorway, being even able to slow you right down to a stop and start you off again if you come across a tailback.

Design and Build

The Scala now looks a little more dynamic in this improved form, evoking the brand's 'Vision RS' concept study with its revised grille, slimmed-down headlights, redesigned bumpers at the front and rear and striking air curtains. Matrix headlights are now available for the first time, with crystalline LED modules designed to evoke sparkling little blocks of ice or gemstones. A diamond pattern in the mesh of the redesigned air intake gives a three-dimensional look and as an option, buyers can now specify an extended rear hatch glass that stretches down to the tail lamps. Skoda has also redesigned the alloy wheel (which vary between 16 and 18-inches in size); and added fresh paint colours. As before, under the skin, the car sits on the VW Group's usual chassis for small cars, it's MQB-A0 platform.

Inside, an 8-inch digital instrument panel screen is now standard, with a larger 10.25-inch set-up offered as an option. The centre dash infotainment monitor is 8-inches as standard, but customers can upgrade to a 9.2-inch display, complete with a wireless version of the brand's 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring system.

There's also a smarter cabin feel, thanks to trimming and materials governed by various 'Design Selections' - package combinations of colours and finishes. Other fresh additions include smartphone storage pockets in the front seatbacks and the option of a powered tailgate with foot gesture control. The car can have as many as five USB-C ports, including one built into the rear view mirror, ideal to plug in a dash cam. As before, the long 2,649mm wheelbase allows for more rear seat leg room than you might expect to find in a car of this class. Out back, there's a large 467-litre boot, the largest in the class. This increases to 1,410-litres with the rear bench folded. 

Market and Model

Prices start at just over £22,000 and the range consists of three familiar Skoda trim grades; 'SE', 'SE L' and 'Monte Carlo', with all three offering decent levels of standard specification. Despite its status as the entry-level model, the 'SE' is fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, leather for the steering wheel, gear and handbrake lever and a height adjustable driver's seat. Customers opting for the 'SE' model also get air-conditioning, a DAB digital radio, front and rear electric windows and a 'Bolero' infotainment system with an 8.0-inch screen. You also get cruise control, rear parking sensors, an integrated umbrella and a height adjustable passenger seat. In terms of safety equipment, the 'SE' model features front head and side airbags, Front assist, Lane assist, a Speed limiter and Emergency call with proactive services.

If you're happy to spend just under £23,000 on your Scala, then your dealer will direct you to the plush 'SE L' model, which includes the brand's top 'Amundsen' infotainment system with a 9.2-inch glass touchscreen, plus there's a hi-tech digital cockpit, climate control air conditioning, keyless entry with start/stop and a colour multifunction trip computer. The exterior design features 17-inch alloy wheels, full LED rear lights, dynamic indicators and privacy glass on the rear windows. At the top of the range, the 'Monte Carlo' variant includes 18-inch black Vega alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and an interior leather pack with red stitching.

Cost of Ownership

As you'd expect, all the Scala engines meet the latest Euro 6D emissions standard and all the petrol units are equipped with a particulate filter. All engines come with brake energy recovery and Stop/Start technology. The 1.5 TSI is also equipped with Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) that cuts the engine from four to two cylinders under light-to-medium throttle loads. Skoda won't be bringing to the UK the 1.0 G-TEC unit that's designed to run on CNG environmentally friendly natural gas.

In terms of WLTP efficiency stats? Well, expect the base 1.0 TSI 95PS petrol unit to return up to 54.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 119g/km of CO2. The volume 116PS 1.0 TSI petrol unit manages to replicate those figures. For the 1.5 TSI, the figures are 51.4mpg and 124g/km.

Finally, while it's certainly true that other rivals better the three year 60,000 mile warranty that Skoda provides, you can extend your cover to four or five years by paying extra. Not that you really need to. The brand regularly tops independent consumer satisfaction surveys: according to real people, there are few more satisfying cars to own.

Summary

This Scala has proved to be an under-rated car, just as its Rapid Spaceback predecessor was. If you really don't want to pay an awful lot extra for the slush-moulded sophistication of a Golf but want all the same engineering and practicality, then you'll find it here. And in a form that doesn't carry any sort of budget brand stigma.

There are more exciting class choices to be sure. But, by and large, you don't buy a family hatchback for excitement. All the reasons you would want such a thing are covered off here with typical Skoda thoroughness, especially in this revised model. And with enough style and quality to make brand loyalists feel rather smug. This probably won't have been the car you started out wanting in this class, but there's just a chance that it may be the one you actually need.

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